MEETING TONIGHT: Kenai School District considers combining schools due to budget proposal

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KENAI, Alaska (KTUU) - Steep cuts in the Governor's proposed budget have led the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board to grapple with the very real potential that some schools in its area may need to be shut down or consolidated. Before that happens, officials want to hear what residents think about it.

Meetings will be held in different schools on Thursday and next week to provide that opportunity. According to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, that's its way of being proactive to find out how the public feels, rather than waiting until cuts are certain to make the tough calls.

KPBSD wrote in a release Thursday that those conversations are important for determining the district's future, and listed dates and locations for residents to attend.

"With fiscal uncertainty at the state and borough levels, it is an act of due diligence to have the conversations in order to learn community concerns and thoughts," Pegge Erkeneff, spokesperson for KPBSD, wrote in the release. "KPBSD is being proactive to explore a number of possibilities to meet potentially significant funding cuts in all areas of our district, including southern, central, and eastern peninsula schools."

The budget in question was proposed by Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, and has been called significant in depth for schools not only in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, but also across the state.

"It is unlikely that school closures would occur in the Seward or Homer area as fast as the 2019-2020 school year, unless the Governor’s proposed budget stands," the release states. "Timing of any potential school consolidations in the Seward or Homer areas is unknown, and at this time, school closures or consolidations would be dependent upon funding from the state in FY20 and beyond."

Three meetings were announced for impacted areas of the borough, including Seward, Soldotna and Homer.

The Seward meeting will be on April 11, 2019, 6:30 p.m., William H. Seward Elementary School. Officials say the potential closure will be consolidating Seward Middle School (6-8) into Seward High School (9-12), and William H. Seward Elementary (6th).

KPBSD said this merge would mean a saving of $409,000 in operating costs.

The Soldotna-area meeting will be held April 11, 2019, 6:00 p.m. at the Soldotna High School auditorium.

The proposed consolidation in Soldotna is to move Soldotna ninth grade students from Soldotna Prep to Soldotna High School, and to relocate River City Academy.

The moves would save the district approximately $630,000 each year.

The Homer meeting will be held on April 15, 2019, 6:00 p.m., Homer High School commons. They'll be discussing potentially consolidating Homer Middle School and Homer High School.

For Homer, Erkeneff wrote, "No decisions have been made, and your thoughts are valuable."

Combining the two schools would result in a savings of $459,000 in operating costs, and avoid deferred maintenance costs of approximately $10,000,000, the borough estimated.

An online survey for public input is available for those who can't attend the meetings in person. The Seward survey is located online here.

The Soldotna survey is online here.

The Homer survey is located online here.

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